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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

UFS leads international conference
2010-05-13

Here Minister Naledi Pandor is introduced to Prof. Martin Kropff, Rector of the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands. Looking on are Prof. Aldo Stroebel and Melody Mentz.
– Photo Supplied.
The Third Biannual Conference of the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) was held in Cape Town, South Africa during April 2010. The conference was co-hosted by the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). It was the first time that the conference was held in Africa. The conference was attended by more than 400 delegates, representing more than 40 countries around the globe, and was officially opened by Minister Naledi Pandor, Department of Science and Technology (DST). The University of the Free State (UFS) took the lead in organising this event, with Prof. Aldo Stroebel, Vice-President of SARIMA and Director: Internationalisation at the UFS, as Conference President, and Prof. Frans Swanepoel, Director: Research Development at the UFS, as Chairperson of the Programme Committee. Other UFS staff who were members of the organising committee included Melody Mentz (Student Development and Success) and Lise Kriel (Planning Unit). Prof. Driekie Hay, Vice-Rector: Teaching and Learning, participated in a panel discussion on research leadership.

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